The woman poised to become President-elect Biden’s deputy chief of staff is being harangued for the cardinal sin of referring to Congressional Republicans as “fuckers.” In other words, she’s in trouble for being honest.
Jen O’Malley Dillon made the slight in a recent interview with Glamour magazine. The former Biden campaign manager was discussing the path ahead post-Trump, and how Biden’s skill set allows him to navigate the travails of a divided nation.
“Like Joe Biden says all the time, ‘Great leadership starts with listening,’ O’Malley Dillon said. “It’s challenging for us to do that right now, because of how polarized we are. But politics breaks down to one-on-one conversations and not being afraid to talk. I get that you’re not supposed to talk politics at the holiday dinner. Well, fuck that. It’s because we don’t do that that we are in this situation now.”
O’Malley Dillon went on to note how important compromise is, and that it isn’t the same as giving up your values, but rather believing in something enough to find a solution that works. But it’s what she said next that has left Republicans fuming and some Biden donors anxious.
From Glamour (emphasis ours):
[Glamour:] That might be what we’re missing—is that redefining of compromise. That it is or it can be the ultimate victory.
[O’Malley Dillon:] Yes, exactly. And frankly, that’s what we need. The president-elect was able to connect with people over this sense of unity. In the primary, people would mock him, like, “You think you can work with Republicans?” I’m not saying they’re not a bunch of fuckers. Mitch McConnell is terrible. But this sense that you couldn’t wish for that, you couldn’t wish for this bipartisan ideal? He rejected that. From start to finish, he set out with this idea that unity was possible, that together we are stronger, that we, as a country, need healing, and our politics needs that too.
Put in context, O’Malley Dillon was making the case for bipartisanship and trade-offs across the aisle as a necessary evil, regardless of how one feels about elected Republicans or Senate Majority Leader McConnell (whose long record is of supporting legislation against the American people’s best interest is not merely “terrible”). She used admittedly colorful language to emphasize her point, but this is hardly the indictment that her critics are grousing over. Critics like Senator Marco Rubio, who tweeted, “Biden talks about unity and healing, but you want to know what they really think? Read how the person he wants as the next WH deputy chief of staff called Republicans in Congress a bunch of f***ers.”
But it’s not the fact that Republicans are audacious enough to quibble over foul language while licking President Trump’s boots that’s the most infuriating element of this pointless saga. Axios reports that some Biden donors want O’Malley Dillon to “apologize — to Biden and perhaps to congressional Republicans.”
This is one of the first signs of division in a team that’s prided itself through the campaign and transition on unity, message discipline and minimal leaks, and is now preparing to govern.
“For those of us who, from Day One, bought into Biden’s calls for civility and a return to normalcy, this isn’t just beyond the pale — it’s plain stupid,” said one Biden donor.
Biden confidants don’t necessarily disagree with O’Malley Dillon’s darker sentiments; they disagree with her decision to say them for public consumption.
The Biden team can argue amongst themselves over O’Malley Dillon’s choice of words, but demanding she apologize to Congress is exactly the kind of senseless handwringing that Democrats must move on from. This throwaway quote couldn’t be more of a non-issue in the middle of a deadly pandemic, a chaotic lame-duck presidency, and a set of vital Georgia Senate races that Democrats must win if they hope to govern with a sliver of a mandate. Democrats should relegate this as a nonissue for Capitol Hill wonks to fret over and ignore any desperate attempts from Republicans eager to turn this into a distraction.
At the end of the day, nothing O’Malley Dillon said is comparable to the irrevocable damage the Republican Party has done in the last decade through regressive legislation and violent rhetoric. Democrats would be wise to remember that and, for once, not take the bait.